DOJ reverses decision to ban gay pride event

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com June 11 2003 12:00 AM ET

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it is reversing its decision to ban its annual gay
pride event. Officials at DOJ Pride, the department's voluntary group of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered employees, were told last week that they would be prohibited from holding their annual pride event at the department. And while DOJ officials have now decided to allow the event, it will not enjoy the sponsorship of the department as it has in the past and as other events currently do.

"We are pleased that the DOJ has reversed their decision of the all-out ban on the on-site gay pride event," said Winnie Stachelberg, political director for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. "However, the new policy is still a step backward, as DOJ Pride is being treated differently than it was in the past and unequally from other agency groups who have the full sponsorship of the department. This policy marginalizes the department's GLBT employees."

Last year's DOJ Pride event featured a department-sponsored speech by Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson to roughly 150 employees in the Great Hall. DOJ officials claimed that this year's event would be disallowed because the White House had not issued a proclamation acknowledging Gay Pride Month. There was no proclamation from the president prior to last year's event either. Other federal agencies, including the State Department, which is headed by Secretary of State Collin Powell, are holding similar pride events that enjoy full departmental support.

According to HRC, during Attorney General John Ashcroft's nomination hearing to head the department, he was asked if he planned to discriminate against gay and lesbian employees or DOJ Pride. "I would not tolerate discrimination against any employee at the Department of Justice based on sexual preference," Ashcroft said. "I have no intent to...treat this group differently than any other."

The gay political group Log Cabin Republicans is also taking Ashcroft to task for his failure to respect diversity. "[Allowing DOJ Pride to hold their event] is a start, for sure," said Patrick Guerriero, executive director of LCR, "but we need to make sure that the commitment that Attorney General Ashcroft made to members of the United States Senate and Log Cabin Republicans is made whole--complete and equal treatment of all Department of Justice employees. We call on the attorney general to make this happen."